On 25 July 1918, a little more than a year after the United States entered World War I, Lewis B. Puller enlisted in the Marines at the age of 20. By the time he completed boot camp and graduated from officer training, the conflict was over. It would be the last time he did not march immediately toward the sound of the guns. Transferred to the reserves, he resigned his commission and re-enlisted for a transfer to Haiti, where Marine NCOs served as lieutenants in the constabulary. Three years later, after fighting in a few skirmishes, he again completed officer training and regained his Marine commission.
Puller next saw action in Nicaragua in 1929 when he took command of Company M, the sole outfit not tied to defending a town. His aggressiveness and fearlessness were perfectly suited to the task of making long patrols into enemy territory, and he scored an impressive string of victories against the elusive insurgents. He came out of Nicaragua in 1932 with two Navy Crosses and the nickname "Chesty."
In World War II campaigns on Guadalcanal, New Britain, and Peleliu (where he commanded the 1st Marines) as well as in epic battles at Inchon, Seoul, and the Chosin Reservoir in the Korean War, Puller cemented his reputation for valor with three more Navy Crosses. But his true legend and legacy sprang from his role as a leader always in the thick of the fight alongside his men, inspiring them by example and looking out for their interests. He came to epitomize the quintessential Marine — hard as the frontal armor of a tank, tenacious as a bulldog, courageous to a fault, and scornful of anyone or anything that did not bear the eagle, globe, and anchor insignia.